The O’Jays are one of the most influential and successful groups in the history of R&B and soul music. They have been active for over six decades, releasing more than 30 albums and scoring dozens of hits, including classics like “Love Train”, “Back Stabbers”, “For the Love of Money” and “Use ta Be My Girl”. In this blog post, I will explore the legacy and impact of The O’Jays, as well as their recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The O’Jays were formed in 1958 in Canton, Ohio, by five friends who sang together in a gospel group. They originally called themselves The Triumphs, then The Mascots, before settling on The O’Jays in 1963, in honor of their manager Eddie O’Jay. The group went through several lineup changes over the years, but the most famous and longest-lasting one consisted of Eddie Levert, Walter Williams and William Powell. They signed with Philadelphia International Records in 1972, where they teamed up with legendary producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who helped them create their signature sound of smooth vocals, lush orchestrations and socially conscious lyrics.
The O’Jays achieved their peak success in the 1970s, when they dominated the charts with a string of hits that reflected the mood and issues of the times, such as racism, poverty, war and love. They also became known for their energetic and charismatic live performances, which showcased their vocal harmonies, choreography and rapport with the audience. The O’Jays were not only popular among black listeners, but also crossed over to the mainstream pop market, reaching a wide and diverse fan base.
The O’Jays continued to record and tour throughout the 1980s and 1990s, despite facing some challenges and tragedies, such as the death of William Powell from cancer in 1977, and the departure of Gamble and Huff from Philadelphia International Records in 1986. They also had to deal with some legal disputes over royalties and contracts with their former label and managers. However, they never lost their passion and dedication for their music, and they maintained a loyal following of fans who appreciated their timeless songs and messages.
In 2005, The O’Jays were finally recognized for their contributions to music and culture by being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were presented by Justin Timberlake, who praised them as “the soundtrack to multiple generations”. The O’Jays performed a medley of their hits at the ceremony, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd. They also received a BET Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.
The O’Jays are still active today, although they have reduced their touring schedule due to health issues and personal reasons. They released their last studio album, The Last Word, in 2019, which they announced would be their final one. They also released a documentary film, The Sound of Philadelphia: The Story of The O’Jays, in 2020, which chronicles their career and legacy. The O’Jays are widely regarded as one of the greatest vocal groups of all time, and they have influenced countless artists across genres and generations. They have left an indelible mark on music history, and they deserve to be celebrated as icons of R&B and soul.